The troubles faced by Tom Elliott

So what was the tipping point for Tom Elliott?

Was it his falling out with David McNarry over newspaper revelations of talks with the DUP?

Or was it Danny Kennedy's support for the upgrading of the A5, a project which the Fermanagh-based party leader had consistently opposed?

Mr Elliott blames those who "have not given me a fair opportunity at developing and progressing many initiatives", adding that "some of this obstruction and hostility began immediately following my election as leader and has been relentless since then."

However, as the Fermanagh MLA acknowledges this is "part and parcel of politics", a game in which leaders make their own luck.

Anyone who has dealt with Tom Elliott knows that personally he is a courteous, mild-mannered country man.

But his leadership has been hampered from the start by a tendency to slide headlong on banana skins of his own making.

I have written an analysis piece elsewhere on the website which revisits those comments about Gaelic matches and Sinn Fein "scum" which got Tom Elliott into hot water.

The question now is whether his successor will have better fortune avoiding obvious potholes and charting a way forward.

A shift into opposition could change the political realities at Stormont, but is it a risk UUP supporters are prepared to take?

Alternatively carrying on as now could expose the Ulster Unionists to a slow death as they become an even more diminished force within a 96 or even 80-strong assembly.

Leadership contenders have only a week to make their minds up.

With Tom Elliott's Fermanagh based supporters still representing a large percentage of the internal UUP electorate, the outgoing leader could - if he wants - still play an important role in deciding who his successor should be.

More on this story